A couple of weekends ago, my family and I had the unique opportunity to visit the Kooistra Dairy Farm in Woodstock, IL. My kids are still talking about the experience of meeting the cows and the one thing my husband and I continue to talk about as well, is how well the cows were taken care of. Everything they do from sunup to sundown is to make sure the cows are kept healthy and happy.
One of the topics that came up during our visit was a brief discussion about the health benefits of milk and the recent controversy about school lunches and the proposal to remove chocolate milk from schools.
We all know that milk contains calcium, vitamin D, vitamin A, and protein, all of which are very important in our diets. Milk is a healthy choice, especially when you drink skim milk – you get all the vitamin but none of the fat.
I’d never really thought about chocolate milk before. We don’t generally buy it, but I also never restricted my kids from getting it at a restaurant or at school. It’s a better choice than soda, hands down. But what about how it compares to juice? We readily give our kids cup after cup of 100% juice under the assumption it is the healthiest, best choice to help combat obesity in our kids. But is it?
Below is a label from a low-fat chocolate milk carton and a label from a 100% apple juice bottle.
Now, I refuse to debate the whole high fructose corn syrup thing vs natural sugar. Sugar is sugar and according to what I’ve read, as far as our weight is concerned, our body reacts to all sugar in the same way. It promotes an insulin response which causes all sorts of things to happen in our body, most notably the conversion into fat if it is not all burned off with activity. Natural sugars have a lesser chance of turning into fat, but eat enough of them and they certainly can. Fruit juice may in theory be a natural sugar, but processed into juice without the fiber of the fruit in its natural form, our bodies react more like it would to a simple sugar.
So what does the 100% juice have going for it?
8% of the recommended daily value.
The chocolate milk has a few more calories and more fat but it also has 16% of the recommended daily value of protein, 10% of vitamin A, 4% of vitamin C, a whopping 30% of calcium, 2% of Iron and 25% of vitamin D.
From the Midwest Dairy Association:
With calcium and eight other essential nutrients, flavored milk offers the same great nutrient-rich package as white milk and can help improve overall diets. Kids are in a calcium crisis, with more than half of children ages 2-8 and three-quarters of children ages 9-19 not getting the recommended daily servings of low-fat or fat-free milk or milk products. Flavored milk can help close the gap because children prefer it and will drink more milk when it’s flavored.
Obviously I’d rather my kids drank skim white milk, ate all their veggies and never ate a single bite of simple sugars again in their lives. I’d also rather they never talked back, always did their chores without being asked and did the dishes for me. But I live in the real world.
From my perspective, my job as a parent is to teach my kids about healthy eating and demonstrate right choices. But I also believe that my job is to teach them how to make “better” choices and how to deal with making the wrong choices. I don’t believe that not exposing a child to something teaches them anything. Not giving them choices never helps them be able to identify and make better choices.
And besides, I like chocolate milk.
Our society believes that DIET foods are better. When in fact, eating foods processed and created in order to provide taste but not natural nutrients our bodies need often attributes to obesity. Do you really think our body has any idea how to deal with a diet soda? I shutter at the thought of what it is doing to our kids bodies.
Milk is good for our bodies, if it takes a bit of sweetness to make it more appealing to kids (and some adults…I look around innocently) that does a whole lot less harm than most of the other choices out there.
ENTER TO WIN ONE OF 3 PRIZE PACKS FROM MIDWEST DAIRY ASSOCIATION
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I was reimbursed for my travel expenses to the Kooistra Dairy Farm. Opinions expressed are my own.